Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Author Interview: Shweta Taneja: An Author, Scriptwriter, Graphic Novelist and Journalist

Shweta Taneja is an author, scriptwriter, graphic novelist and journalist. Her published works include The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, Krishna: Defender of Dharma and The Skull Rosary along with various short pieces of fiction and non-fiction. Her aim is to prod and pry the peculiar and the odd, and to break preconceived notions about paranormal and supernatural with her books. Her upcoming novel, Cult of Chaos is a detective fantasy based in Delhi and releases in November 2014. Connect with her online at www.staneja.com

Your real name and pen name?
Shweta Taneja, no pen name.
Please share some of the best memories of your childhood
I used to sit with my cousins and tell them scary stories when electricity would go off in summer holidays. I still remember their feared expression while I write my current thrillers!

About your education
I did my bachelors and masters in English from Delhi University. I also have a diploma in fashion communication from NIFT. My real education has been during my professional life while interacting with all kinds of people and listening to their stories.

What career did you plan during your education days
Nothing! All I knew was what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to become the usual Indian engineer or doctor. I did think about teaching sometimes. I still do. 
What languages you can speak and write?
English and Hindi.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life
Stories. Of all kinds. Factual stories that come out in newspapers, oral stories which I collect while travelling and speaking to people, experienced in architect, history, dance, culture and things. Stories written in novels, plays, played out in dramas, in serials, in movies, and in dance forms.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?
In terms of my writing experiences so far, the biggest challenge I’ve faced is in completing a novel. I was not really sure I could write a whole book. I had already failed on one book which had died on me and was left unfinished (still is). So when I started to write The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, I was facing crippling self-doubt and fears all the way. Mostly it was just dogged stubbornness which made me write. I divided the book into scenes and decided to write a complete scene in one week, no matter what. I wrote paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene, chapter by chapter per week and had finished my book in six months. Now I’ve already completed three whole novels using the same process. Write everyday!

What is your favorite genre and why?
Speculative fiction be it fantasy or science fiction remain my ever favourites. I think in both genres through other creatures, supernatural or natural, alternative worlds, we try and look critically into our world. That still fascinates me.

What is the purpose of your writing?
To make entertaining stories that make people believe in magic and give them a glazed look in their eyes by the end of it.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong - 2013
'The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong is a crisp, mysterious tale, which unravels through a web of mystery, deceit, hoaxes and supernatural events.” reviews Business Standard. The ghostly thriller is set in the hills, and follows the adventures of three friends, Kartik, Opus and Tashi as they try to find out the mystery behind the haunted Iyer bungalow. 

Krishna Defender of Dharma (graphic novel with Rajesh N) - 2012

A classic retelling of Krishna’s story, this graphic novel amalgamates stories from Bhagawata Purana, Hari Vamsa, Mahabharata and folk tales of the favourite blue hero of Indian mythology. The book has become part of the CBSE’s Must Read List for schools. Pick this whopper up for the awe-inspiring art by Rajesh Nagulakonda.

The Skull Rosary (graphic novel with various artists) - 2013
Comprising of five short comics, The Skull Rosary is a black and white book with retellings of dark tales from Linga Purana (older form of Shiva Purana). It was nominated in the Best Writer and Best Cover categories in Comic Con India 2013.

What are your forthcoming writings?

Cult of Chaos, Book 1 of Anantya Tantrist mysteries
Release: November 2014. Harper Collins India
Anantya Tantrist is the heroine of my upcoming novel Cult of Chaos, which is a detective fantasy. She is a sassy, bad-mouthed, independent 23-year-old who walks on the streets of Delhi at night, solving supernatural crime. In Cult of Chaos, she investigates a grisly case of girl sacrifices in the city. The book releases in November 2014 by Harper Collins India

What genres you write in and why?
As I mentioned above, I mostly write in speculative fiction, be it for children or adults. I am thoroughly curious about human nature and how it would interact with the paranormal and supernatural. Also how the ‘others’ and our behavior with them reflects who we are.

What keeps you motivating towards writing?
I keep thinking I will quit after this book, join a job to earn wadloads of money and then by the time I finish writing ‘this’ book, I get an idea about another one.

How do you plan, schedule and monitor your writing commitments?
I divide the whole plot by scenes and write one every working week. If a scene is not finished by the end of the week, I get homework for weekends. I am quite strict with my writing deadlines but easy when it comes to editing.

What are your future plans?
To keep travelling and listen to more and more stories! Oh and write more stories too!

What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
-       It should be a strong story
-       It should have surprises and twists and page turners
-       It should never be edited (ever) when I am writing it
-       Once finished, it should be edited again and again and again

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?
A lot. Many of my scenes are inspired by stories I find in the newspaper or things I listen to from other people.  Even though I write fantasy, I base my writings in the human experience.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an Author?
Everyone is imaginative, but very few nurture their imagination like it were a child. You need to open the door of creativity in your head, call to the muses, wait patiently, clean the door everyday to make sure it opens smoothly. I am more imaginative now than when I began writing. That’s because I continuously write and oil the door, trying to carve more and more windows so more muses come in.

Your dream destination on Earth?
Patala. I would love to explore it someday.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed.

Your favorite time of the day?
Early morning, when my head is brimming with ideas.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?
Libra/Virgo cusp

Your favorite color and why?
Orange and yellow. I love warm colours you can cuddle to.

What is the last book you finished reading? What is the current book you are reading?
I read a collection of feminist science fiction called A Woman’s Liberation. Now I am reading another of collections in the same genre called Women of Wonder.

Some quickies:
Moon, Laughter, Evening, Coffee and tea, Mountains and sea, Long drive, silence and conversation, water, air, red, left.

What three words come to your mind for each –
Technology: Magic
Life: Breathing
God: Kali
Humanity: Kindness
Terrorism: Darkness
Racism: Hate
Childhood Abuse: Power
Love: Selfless
Parenting: Responsibility
Old age: Calm

Twitter handle: @shwetawrites
Facebook page: Facebook.com/shwetawrites
Goodreads author page: Goodreads.com/shwetawrites
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.in/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=shweta%20taneja
Website: www.staneja.com

Connect with Anantya Tantrist here:
Blog: Tantrist.tumblr.com
Facebook, Twitter: @anantyatantrist

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